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Exercise preserves U.S., Bulgarian partnership

by Airman 1st Class Desiree W. Esposito
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/4/2011 - PLOVDIV, Bulgaria (AFNS) -- Airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Airlift Wing and 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, as well as U.S. Army jumpmasters teamed with Bulgarian armed forces to conduct Exercise Thracian Spring 2011 April 26 to May 6 here.

The bilateral training exercise brought U.S. and Bulgarian military forces together to build upon the bonds currently shared between the two countries, while continuing to improve interoperability as Bulgaria continues to progress as a new partner nation in NATO, the exercise coordinators said.

"Sharing knowledge and activities will strengthen the U.S. and Bulgarian partnership for future operations," said Capt. John Holland, a 37th Airlift Squadron pilot and mission commander.

More than 90 Airmen and Soldiers, including crew chiefs, jumpmasters, parachute riggers, loadmasters, aerial porters and pilots, loaded two C-130J Super Hercules for the two-week event.

While meeting their own training requirements, jumpmasters from the 435th Contingency Response Group and the Army's 5th Quartermaster Company also facilitated jumps for more than 400 Bulgarian paratroopers.

Paratroopers from the 68th Bulgarian Special Forces Brigade performed nine static line and high altitude, low opening jumps alongside U.S. paratroopers.

The training assisted with "Accomplishing nine successful static lines and HALO sorties the first week couldn't have been a better opportunity for U.S. and Bulgarian paratroopers to train and integrate," said Maj. Michael Morales, a 37th AS pilot.

More than four container delivery system drops, night-vision-goggle training, and aerial port procedures were included in the exercise.

"Thracian Spring was a great experience for my comrades and I, being able to share essential aircraft skilled procedures will have a lasting effect," said Bulgarian air force Capt. Anton Dimitrov.

Training in Bulgaria also offers various benefits to aircrews who normally have to operate under Germany's noise restrictions, which prohibit certain flying routes and hours.

"Tactical, low-level flying in Europe is very difficult due to the noise restriction," Captain Holland said. "Bulgaria assists in allowing us to use their airspace for low-altitude flying."

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